Team Xerra

We’re here to conduct robust scientific research that generates new knowledge, provides solutions to real problems, and makes our world a more habitable place for future generations. As the saying goes, “we take our work seriously — ourselves, less so.”

We work hard and work smart for each other, our partners and our customers. We test our ideas early and often with real users and we sacrifice our comfort regularly to ask hard questions and have honest conversations.

We recognise that genuine innovation comes from thinking and acting differently from the status quo. It’s certainly not easy finding new ways to solve problems – which is why we spend time investing in our team.

Business Team

Steve Cotter


Steve came to Xerra with 25 years of leadership experience, including more than 15 years in the information technology and research and education (R&E) sectors.

Prior to Xerra, Steve was the CEO of the GÉANT Association, overseeing both operating companies in Amsterdam and Cambridge. GÉANT runs the pan-European high-performance R&E network serving more than 50 million users from 41 countries. Before joining GÉANT, he was the CEO of REANNZ, the New Zealand R&E network.

He joined REANNZ from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Sciences Network (ESnet) in 2011. As the head of ESnet, he was responsible for providing high-performance networking to thousands of researchers and scientists at more than 40 national laboratories and research institutions.

Prior to ESnet, he served as Google’s network deployment manager for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Before being hired by Google, Steve worked for Internet2, the R&E network in the U.S. as Deputy Operations Officer and was CEO and President of their wholly owned subsidiary, FiberCo.

Steve got his start in telecommunications and networking at SBC Global Communications (now AT&T), serving as a Director in network engineering and construction departments, and also in optical networking as an engineer and program manager at Cisco Systems. He served eight years as an Officer and helicopter pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps. Steve attended the U.S. Naval Academy, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering. Steve also earned an MBA from Boston University.

Steve moved to Alexandra in August 2017, after accepting the role at Xerra.

Andy Hovey

Head of Product and Design

Andy’s worked in designing digital products and services for the past 15 years. He’s passionate about building products that help people look after our planet. He believes that connecting scientific research to end-users through elegant software can positively change their behaviour.

Prior to Xerra Andy was Head of Design at Xero, where he lead and grew a global team of designers, and helped shape Xero’s product strategy. He’s held previous roles as Creative Director at Springload, and Senior User Experience Designer at Amazon.

His work straddles the blurry line between strategy, user research, product management and design. He’s focused on the people using our products, and thinks great software is like a wonderful person: it’s respectful, generous and helpful.

Andy and his partner live in Wellington. They’re keen cyclists and have recently returned from a multi-year trip exploring the greater mountain ranges of the world by bicycle and on foot.

Emma Scarlet

Director of People

Emma spent the first half of 2017 as the Establishment Manager for Xerra, coordinating the initial tasks required in the formation of this new organisation. She was then hired as the Xerra Executive Assistant, and has since moved into the role of Director of People.

For the past six years, Emma co-owned a retail business in Alexandra. During this time, she also worked part-time for over three years as personal assistant to Dr Greg Bodeker. Greg’s company, Bodeker Scientific, was the lead agency in the successful funding application that led to the formation of Xerra (Formerly CSST).

Prior to this, Emma worked for a number of years as an occupational therapist within the health and education sectors in New Zealand.

Heather Deacon

Business Development Manager

Heather’s career stems from a passion for aerospace and a deep desire to create the very best value for customers. She prefers a partnered approach, working alongside customers to build solutions that really get to the heart of their issues.

Heather studied for her MSc. at Cranfield College of Aeronautics, including remote sensing and satellite imagery for the management of biological resources. After gaining her pilot’s licence, Heather built a career as an instructor, training military pilots in the UK before moving into operations management and business development. Heather emigrated to New Zealand in 2006 with her family where she managed Safe Air and Airbus NZ before taking up a role with NZ’s Innovation Agency, Callaghan Innovation.

In her spare time, Heather enjoys horse-riding vaquero style, e-biking and walking her dog with her partner.

Kelly Rummins

Product Marketing Manager

Kelly has worked in marketing for over 15 years with a strong focus on technology and data throughout. She is passionate about bringing technology and data together to solve problems that support stewardship for the environment.

Kelly worked at a market research agency with a focus on developing their community management SaaS offering. She has held previous roles in research, product marketing and product management at Westpac New Zealand where she worked for over 10 years. To deliver effective marketing Kelly knows that this must be underpinned with a depth of customer understanding, strategy and planning. Her role at Xerra tackles complex communication channels at each stage of the customer journey for Starboard Maritime Intelligence.

Kelly has recently returned to study, completing a post-graduate certificate in the Internet of Things (IoT).

Kelly lives in Auckland with her active family who spend most of their free time playing rugby, netball, football, swimming and running.

Mat Brown

Sales Manager

Mat joins Xerra following a 17 year career in the advertising industry in the UK and NZ, where he worked within the brand advertising space spanning Mobile ad tech, bespoke content partnerships, and traditional media solutions.

Passionate about helping clients overcome their individual challenges, Mat takes a customer centric approach, believing in consistently adding value to his clients as a long-term commercial partner.

The Sales Manager role at Xerra allows him to bring together both his commercial acumen and previous PGDip in Marine Science from the University of Otago, to find solutions that enable clients to better protect our global ecosystems.

Relocating from London to sunny Mount Maunganui in 2017 with his Wife and 3 young children, Mat enjoys getting out in the surf, Cricket, Rugby, playing decidedly average Golf and getting on the water in the family boat.

Sophie Cleal

Digital Marketing Coordinator

Sophie has just completed her final year of studying towards a Bachelor of Commerce degree at Victoria University of Wellington, majoring in Marketing and minoring in Psychology.

Sophie is interested in how theories in social psychology can be applied to influence consumer’s habits and behaviours, and how these theories may differ between contrasting international markets. Sophie enjoys learning about the components of human relations within business and how organisations can build a high level of trust with their customers.

Sophie has previous work experience as an intern with New Zealand King Salmon, where she developed a good base set of skills within finance, HR and marketing. Sophie completed an internship with Xerra over the summer of 2020-2021, to assist them with their efforts in market research in the Pacific Islands. She then worked part-time as an Office Administrator alongside the Director of People, completing finance & HR related tasks during her last year of study. Sophie now works full time, producing content and completing digital marketing for Xerra.

Originally from Nelson, she now lives in sunny Island Bay in Wellington, and is often at the gym, cooking, or catching up with friends in her spare time.

Science & Research

Dr Andrew Middleditch

Research Scientist

Andrew has a background in earth observation and remote sensing using high-frequency ocean radar. He completed a PhD in Applied Mathematics at the University of Sheffield in the UK where he developed signal processing algorithms to extract metocean parameters from radar systems. He subsequently joined Seaview Sensing Ltd, a Sheffield-based software company created to commercialise the wave inversion techniques that had been developed at the university, and worked for the Australian Integrated Marine Observing System. He has been involved in a variety of roles within oceanographic radar, including science research, signal processing and software development, working from the UK, New Zealand, Australia and Thailand.

Andrew relocated back home to New Zealand in 2018 and currently works remotely from Queenstown, within easy access to the Southern Alps for snowboarding and cycling.

Dr Dave Kelbe

Principal Scientist

Dave was introduced to satellite imaging at the University of Otago and has spent the last decade honing his skills in anticipation of returning to help advance earth observation science in New Zealand.

Previously, Dave was a research scientist with the Geographic Information Science and Technology Group at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), America’s largest multi-program science and technology laboratory and home of the world’s fastest supercomputer. Working at the interface between raw satellite imagery and application-oriented end-users, Dave knows how to translate large volumes of complex data into actionable information at scale. In support of government and humanitarian agencies, he designed and led an innovative, state-of-the-art capability to reconstruct the topography of the Earth’s surface from multiple-view satellite imagery, using techniques similar to stereo vision. The resulting high-resolution elevation data are critical to applications ranging from emergency response to freshwater quality and critical infrastructure.

Dave received the PhD degree in Imaging Science from Rochester Institute of Technology, earning the Doctoral Dissertation of the Year award for his environmental monitoring research with NASA. His work has been featured in magazines such as National Geographic and The Smithsonian.

Dr Duncan Steel

Principal Research Scientist

Duncan studied at the universities of London, Colorado and Canterbury, taking his PhD in physics at the latter. Since then he has been involved in space projects in the US, UK, Australia, Sweden and Canada, publishing over 140 refereed papers. His research has covered satellite remote sensing, orbital dynamics (of asteroids, comets, and space junk), radar studies of meteors, deep space mission design, and astrobiology. His systems engineering work has involved technological innovations in both the civil and military domains.

Active in public outreach, Duncan is the author of four books, and more than a thousand articles in newspapers and magazines published around the globe. He has also appeared in many TV documentaries, and radio interviews.

Minor planet 4713 Steel is named for him, as is a lunar-roving robot in one of Arthur C.Clarke’s novels.

Joseph Corbett

Data Scientist

Joseph has spent a large portion of his time since 2008 working on turning satellite measurements into useful data products. After completing a Jet Propulsion Laboratory funded MSc in Physics at the University of Auckland, he moved to the United States where he spent seven years working at the NASA Langley Research Center.

While at NASA Joseph was part of a team developing algorithms for NASA Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System, helping to continue more than 30 years of Earth Radiation Budget measurements and producing data products used by researchers studying the Earth’s climate. His work at NASA included all aspects of satellite data processing, from the calibration of instruments, development of retrieval algorithms, validation of data products, and fusion of multiple data sources. It even involved a month of flying in C-130 over the Arctic Ocean. More recently, after returning to New Zealand, he worked as a Data Scientist at an electricity retailer, using machine learning and other techniques to extract information from data.

Dr Moritz Lehmann

Senior Scientist

Moritz’s work focuses remote sensing and modelling technologies to address water quality issues in lakes and the coastal ocean. He has a PhD in oceanography from Dalhousie University, Canada, and has worked in both research and consulting until he relocated with his family to New Zealand in 2014.

As a senior research fellow at the University of Waikato, Moritz developed new methods for satellite-based monitoring of lake water quality and applied these to over 1400 New Zealand lakes. He has been with Xerra since September 2018 where his work includes operationalisation of satellite data products for the monitoring of aquatic environments and fundamental research on hard questions such as atmospheric correction.

Moritz lives in Raglan where he enjoys New Zealand’s perennial summer (compared with Canadian climes) practicing horsemanship and longboard surfing.

Dr Robert Schafer

Principal Research Engineer

Robert has focused his career on Earth Science and remote sensing in both academic and commercial settings. He received his PhD in Physical Science from the University of Technology Sydney, after which he joined the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) in Boulder, Colorado. His research at CIRES focused on radar remote sensing of winds, turbulence, and rainfall.

To follow his interest in applying algorithms beyond the academic arena, he undertook a position at OmniVision/CDM optics, where he led the research group developing computational imaging systems for cell phones, and represented the company in the International Imaging Industry Association. He then joined Harris Corporation, where he identified and developed innovative algorithms for calibrating and analysing satellite and airborne imagery. Here his passion for spatiotemporal analysis brought new capabilities for analysing landcover changes. His interest in precision agriculture led him to AGERpoint, where he developed LiDAR algorithms to analyse crop health, structure, and yield.

Robert has worked extensively with many remote sensing modalities and has a thorough understanding of their application, calibration, and phenomenology. His passion lies in translating remote sensing observations of the environment into actionable information.

Engineering & Design

James Player

Senior Frontend Engineer

James has spent his career crafting beautiful and valuable web experiences across a range of different industries, from small-scale boutique businesses to global software platforms. He has led the front-end strategic direction for SaaS companies and particularly enjoys the creativity and excitement that comes as part of developing new products and services.

His past experience has seen him work across a myriad of different sides of the web, from building applications that run entirely in the browser through to writing scalable web APIs and architecting server infrastructure.

James likes to keep up to date with the latest developments and fast paced changes that are now synonymous with the web’s front-end ecosystem. He’s always had a fascination with new technology and is now enjoying working on the cutting edge at Xerra.

James spent several years living and working in Canada but has always felt a strong connection to New Zealand where he now lives back in his home town of Wellington.

Julie Jeon

Senior Product Designer

Julie likes to get stuck into problem solving to make products and services work better for people. She’s passionate about uncovering real world problems, and she’s equally interested in making the problem solving process more inclusive, so that everyone can rally behind a shift towards positive outcomes for the people and our planet.

As a design practitioner, Julie has worked across Xero and Trade Me in their respective design teams to help shape and improve their product experience, as well as the design and product development processes. Prior to joining Xerra, she has been working with government agencies through Fjord/Accenture to help stand up new systems or improve existing services for everyone. She has led projects, teams, and had the pleasure of mentoring other designers along the way.

Julie lives in Wellington with her husband and cat. In her spare time, she sends snail mail to her pen pals, fusses over her indoor plants, and writes in her journal.

Justin Harding

Senior Software Engineer

Justin’s career has taken him from civil engineering roles in NZ, Saudi Arabia and Australia, through to his current interest in software engineering. He has spent the past 25 years leading the development of software for statistical financial analysis at Moody’s, developing internet banking at the Royal Bank of Scotland, developing financial trading tools at Credit Suisse in Zurich and learning the black art of high frequency trading at Actant in Switzerland.

Justin has had forays in music score editing and image editing, and has a keen interest hillwalking, hiking and motorcycling. Justin and his wife live and work in Alexandra, where they own a property that is hiding beneath a covering of scrub, which they are slowly clearing to reveal rugged outcrops of Central Otago schist.

Laszlo Peter

Senior Software Engineer

Laszlo is a software developer and problem solver, who's been writing computer programs since he was a kid. Now, with more than 20 years of professional experience in software engineering, he's passionate about creating technology that's good for the planet and finding elegant, innovative solutions for his customers.

Before joining Xerra, Laszlo worked remotely as Principal Software Engineer at Oracle and Staff Engineer at Sun Microsystems. At Xerra, he builds and maintains the technology that powers our data analytics and machine learning that make up our products and services. Laszlo closely collaborates with our researchers and business stakeholders to understand their particular needs, then translates those into technical requirements to come up with the most effective and efficient solutions for architecting our technology.

Originally from Hungary, Laszlo lived in various places around the globe before settling in Dunedin, where he's lived for more than a decade. He's very active in the community, along with his family. On a nice day you might find him kayaking or sailing in the beautiful Otago harbour!

Max Collier

Software Engineer

Max is a recent graduate from the University of Otago where he earned his Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science.

During his studies, he has worked in software development roles that allowed him to became familiar with the use of satellite data and processing and to gain experience in interactive mapping applications which provided web services to end users. Through these experiences, Max has found his keen interest in developing optimised algorithms and working across a range of technologies to create effective solutions to technical problems, that provide value for other people.

In his spare time, Max enjoys taking advantage of being in the outdoors through his sporting interests of whitewater kayaking, skiing, swimming and marathon running. When recovering, he can often be found head down in a book or spending time with his friends.

Simeon Miteff

Senior Software Engineer

Simeon has a background in software, computer systems, and research networks. He joined Xerra in August 2018 as a Senior Software Engineer. He works remotely from Auckland where he lives with his wife and two dogs.

Prior to moving to New Zealand, Simeon worked in the IT division at Berkeley Lab in California, USA. His earlier career in South Africa started at universities in Pretoria and Cape Town, after which he joined the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) where he developed remote sensing software. He later led the engineering team at the CSIR that built the South African Research Network (SANReN).

Simeon enjoys working with technology that helps researchers turn their ideas into products and services that benefit society.

Tama Pugsley

Head of Engineering

Tama is passionate about making the connection between science and end users/customers as he helps develop products. On a mission to help solve tangible problems to make the world a better place, he creates software that can render and serve up data to customers on elegant, user-centric platforms.

Tama started by building products for small NZ companies and ended up working with companies such as Kiwibank, NZ Red Cross & NZ Festival of the Arts. He served as Chief Technology Officer and Technical Director at several startups (like Springload) and as a software engineer before joining the team at Xerra. Excited to be working with our researchers, Tama shares the belief that there are limitless possibilities for turning data that’s being collected into products that have the potential to change the world.

Born in New Zealand, Tama has lived around the world, including the US, Canada and even the French Alps. He lives in Nelson with his partner and young son and spends a lot of time trekking and biking up and down whatever mountain he can find.